Critical Read

Slinkys and organizational resilience


Rich Caralli, along with co-authors Julia Allen and David White, literally wrote the book on operational resilience — or, at the very least, the definitive manual for CERT's Resilience Management Model (RMM).

Caralli, Allen and White are all part of Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Program, which has developed one of the leading models for operational resilience. The documentation can be downloaded piecemeal from CERT's website, or a comprehensive volume can be purchased in print or e-book form.

Main story: Operational resilience: Bringing order to a world of uncertainty

CERT contends that RMM distills years of research into best practices and a unified, capability-focused maturity model that encompasses security, business continuity and IT operations. The book version introduces the model and explains the core concepts for those new to resilience management — and then goes into extreme detail on how best to assess and implement it.

At 1,059 pages, it's far from a quick read, and the introductory sections help the layman only so much when talk turns to "targeted improvement roadmaps for FISMA compliance" and "CERT-RMM elaborated generic goals." But it does make for a one-stop reference source.

And for all the process and technical detail, Caralli and his co-authors stress that everything boils down to one core concept of resilience.

"Organizations can be very much like Slinkys," they write, referring to the classic spiral-wire children's toy. "Most organizations can manage to expand and contract as necessary to absorb the 'punch' of disruption. But when the expansion is beyond sustainable limits, in either impact or duration, the organization transforms from a Slinky to a mere wire — unable to spring back to a normal operating condition.

Organizations that do not operate with a conscious eye to what their Slinky looks like do so [at] their own peril."

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.

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